The Acer Nitro 5 is the best gaming laptop I’ve ever tested at the sub $700 USD price point so far, I’ll show you what it can do and help you decide if it’s worth buying in this detailed review. My Nitro is packing the 6 core Ryzen 5 4600H processor with Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics, but there are other configurations available.
It’s got an all black plastic build with red accenting. There’s more flex to the keyboard and lid compared to others, but it feels fine during regular everyday use and is pretty standard for a gaming laptop at this price point.
We’re looking at under 4.8lb or 2.2kg for the laptop alone, then under 5.9lb or 2.7kg with the 135 watt power brick and cables included. It’s not too big for a 15 inch gaming laptop, a bit thick but definitely still portable overall. My Nitro has a 15.6” 1080p 60Hz display, but there’s no FreeSync available here so tearing in games was occasionally noticeable.
I’ve measured the screen's average grey-to-grey response time at around 23ms, ideally we want to see 16.66ms for a 60Hz panel like this. Unfortunately I haven’t had too many other 60Hz laptops for testing, it’s only a little slower than the screen in the Dell G5 SE.
I’ve tested the screen with the Spyder 5, and got 62% of sRGB, 44% of NTSC, 46% of AdobeRGB and 46% of DCI-P3, so colours are on the lower side. We’re looking at 253 nits at 100% brightness, below the 300 or so I like to see making it a little dim, but the 920:1 contrast ratio was fair. Backlight wasn’t too bad, I never noticed the spots up the top when viewing darker content, but this will vary between laptop and panel. There’s a 720p camera above the display in the middle, no Windows Hello support.
The keyboard just has a single zone of red backlighting which illuminates all keys and secondary key functions. It’s got 4 levels of key brightness or can be turned off. I thought typing was fine. Although the power button is part of the keyboard, an accidental press does nothing by default, you’ve got to hold it for a while then the Acer software will prompt you for what to do. The precision touchpad is a smooth plastic with red accent, it clicks down anywhere and works fine. The black finish is sort of shiny, so dirt and fingerprints make it look quite messy, but it’s smooth plastic so pretty easy to clean with a microfiber cloth.
On the left from the back there’s a kensington lock, air exhaust vent, gigabit ethernet, two USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports and 3.5mm audio combo jack. On the right from the front a USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port, no Thunderbolt, USB 2.0 Type-A port, HDMI 2.0 output and an air exhaust on this side too. The HDMI port connects straight to the Nvidia graphics, while the Type-C port does not offer display output, and the Nitro cannot be charged over Type-C either. The back just has some red plastic with the power input. Something to note is you’ve got to push the power adapter quite hard to get it in, originally I thought I had it in but the machine wasn’t powering on, turns out you just have to push it in harder. Otherwise there’s nothing on the front. Underneath has some air intake vents towards the back directly above the fans. Getting inside involves removing 11 phillips head screws. Inside we’ve got the battery down the front, a 2.5 inch drive bay to the left of that, M.2 storage slot and WiFi 5 card just above that, memory in the middle, and a second M.2 storage slot to the right which only takes smaller drives. I should also note that my Nitro shipped with single channel memory, I installed dual channel for best performance and this is something I recommend if you buy this machine.
The speakers are on the left and right sides towards the front. They sounded ok, about average and nothing special, tinny with no bass, but the latencymon results were looking decent.
The Nitro 5 is powered by a 57Wh battery, I’ve tested it with keyboard lighting off, background apps disabled and screen at 50% brightness. The results were extremely impressive, it’s now my best result for a gaming laptop in the YouTube playback test with more than 10 and a half hours of run time, while gaming lasted for over an hour and a half and it still ran at the 30 FPS battery boost limit. This is extra impressive if we consider that the battery could have been larger if Acer didn’t give us that 2.5” drive bay.
Let’s check out thermals next. The Nitrosense software doesn’t give us that much option, we can customize the two fans independently of each other or just set max speed, no modes for changing performance though, these options are just for the Windows power plan. None of these modes applied any overclocks to the GPU. I was able to use the third party Ryzen Controller software to boost the processor but only in CPU only workloads, it had no effect when the GPU is active like when gaming.
The idle temperatures were good with a 21 degree Celsius room, stress tests were done with the Aida64 CPU stress test with stress CPU only checked and the Heaven GPU benchmark run at the same time, while gaming was tested playing Watch Dogs 2. Things cool down with the fans maxed out, then get cooler with the cooling pad in use. No thermal throttling was observed, and worst case the CPU wasn’t even hitting 90 degrees Celsius, while the GPU struggled to pass 70.
These are the clock speeds for the same tests just shown. The GPU speed improves a little as cooling improves, presumably as this helps with GPU boost which prefers lower temperatures. CPU clock speed also increases too, almost reaching 4GHz over all 6 cores with the cooling pad in either test. These are the power levels reported by Hardware Info, so the GTX 1650 is able to run at its 50 watt limit without issue, while the CPU was 35 watts max in these long term loads. It would of course boost up higher than this in more bursty workloads, but this would help explain the lower temps, we just don’t have high powered hardware here.
Here’s how CPU only performance looks in Cinebench with the GPU now idle. It was possible to boost performance by 7.6% for the multicore score with Ryzen Controller, again I didn’t use that earlier as I saw no change when the GPU was active. When compared to others, it’s the best multicore score for a 6 core laptop I’ve got so far, though to be fair those two just below it were tested before Ryzen Controller, either way still a nice result from what is meant to be a budget friendly gaming laptop.
When idling the keyboard was around the low 30 degree Celsius point which is pretty normal. With the stress tests running and fan set to auto it's getting to the low 50s in the middle and felt fairly warm without being uncomfortable. With the fans maxed out the wrist rest is still cool, WASD area cool, and middle of the keyboard is now a bit cooler than before but still warm.
It was only just audible at idle. With the stress tests going and the fan set to the default auto mode it’s not that loud, then max fan speed was a fair bit louder. I think this is a good thing though, as there’s some level of user customization it means you’ve got the option within this range to pick your sweet spot of thermals and fan noise.
Now let’s check out how well this config of Nitro 5 performs in games and see how it compares with other laptops.
I’ve tested Battlefield 5 in campaign mode at ultra settings, the Nitro 5 is highlighted in red. In this test it’s the lowest result I’ve got for a GTX 1650 laptop so far, not counting the lower powered Max-Q options of course. Intel still seems to have a bit of an edge when it comes to gaming for the most part, so that’s not too surprising as the other 1650 laptops are Intel based, though at the same time it’s very close to the Aorus 5 with 9th gen i7.
These are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra settings in the built in benchmark. The Nitro 5 moves up a few places this time, and is now the best 1650 result out of the machines I’ve got data for. This test is generally more CPU reliant, but in say Cinebench I get similar scores on the 4600H to those 9th gen i7s at stock, it could be the faster DDR4-3200 memory helping the Nitro along.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider was also tested with the games benchmark tool with the highest setting preset. Again the Nitro 5 was offering the best result out of the 1650 laptops I’ve tested, and was just a couple of FPS behind the 1650 Ti in the Lenovo IdeaPad gaming 3 just above it - review on that coming soon.
If you want more results, I’ve tested the Nitro 5 in 22 games at all setting levels.
Now for the benchmarking tools. I’ve used Adobe Premiere to export one of my laptop review videos at 4K. This test benefits from quicksync from the Intel machines which is why the Nitro 5 is on the lower side out of this selection. I’ve also tested Premiere but with the Puget systems benchmark which also accounts for things like live playback rather than just export times.
In these tests a higher score is better, and the Nitro was close to higher GPU options with an i7 and ahead of the 1650 Ti in the TUF A15 just below it. The results were similar in Adobe Photoshop, this tends to be more of a CPU focussed test, and it’s the best result I’ve seen from a 4600H machine so far. DaVinci Resolve is more GPU heavy, so the 50 watt 1650 is on the lower side now when compared to the others.
I’ve also tested SPECviewperf which tests out various professional 3D workloads. I’ve used Crystal disk mark to test the 256gb NVMe M.2 SSD, the read speeds were decent, then a fair bit lower comparatively for the writes.
In the US the config I’ve tested in this video starts at $670 USD, a seriously competitive price. You can pay extra for the 1650 Ti model, but as we saw in the game graphs earlier the Ti GPU doesn’t really change the gaming performance that much.
Now let’s summarise the good and bad parts of the Nitro 5 to help you decide if it’s a gaming laptop worth considering. Overall I think what’s on offer is pretty impressive. The CPU performance is excellent thanks to the Ryzen 5 4600H processor, and performance in games is about where you’d expect from the GTX 1650, that is medium settings needed for a solid 60 FPS in more demanding titles. Battery life was seriously impressive, and that was in spite of it still having a 2.5” drive bay instead of a large battery. It sucks that it’s available in single channel memory, I get that costs need to be cut to be competitive at this price point, but I’ve shown just how much of a performance boost that can make.
Speaking of cost cutting, the chassis is all plastic with quite a bit of flex, but realistically I never noticed that during normal use, you don’t sit there trying to bend the machine after all. The 60Hz screen had low colour gamut, response time and lower brightness than I’d like, oh and no FreeSync, so not a great panel but it will get the job done. The speakers were average, keyboard and touchpad were fine, and the temperatures weren’t getting hot even under heavy load, which just seems to be a side effect of not having high end specs inside, but it’s good that we’ve got some control over fan speeds as increasing cooling could boost performance.
Anyway for the $670 USD price, I think the Nitro 5 is a decent gaming laptop, this level of performance particularly from the processor was unheard of for this much money before Ryzen 4000, as we saw it’s hanging out with more expensive i7 options. Just be aware of the main compromises noted including meh screen and build quality, which to be fair are going to be the case in basically any gaming laptop at this price point. Oh and upgrade to dual channel memory if you can spare the extra money, it will be worth it.
Let me know what you thought about Acer’s Nitro 5 gaming laptop down in the comments, is it something you’d consider?